The origin of the adoption of 2 ranks for British troops in the Napoleonic period is frequently debated. Mostly with the debate going over the correspondence of Wellington to determine a start. I chanced upon a remark in a French text which attributes the two rank formation to an instruction of the Duke of York, rather than a decision of Wellington.
"Depuis cette époque jusqu à la paix de Paris en 1814 on ne remarque d innovation importante dans les manoeuvres que la formation de l infanterie sur deux rangs Les Anglais donnèrent les premiers l exemple de cette formation dans une partie de leurs régimens pendant la guerre d Espagne qui éclata en 1808 et toute leur infanterie la prit en 1810 par suite d un ordre du duc d York " (page 216)
"Aussitôt que l infanterie européenne eut été armée du fusil à baïonnette on ne la forma plus que sur trois rangs Peu après le commence ment de la guerre d Espagne en 1808 l infanterie anglaise commença à abandonner cette formation pour adopter la formation sur deux rangs dont l usage devint de plus en plus fréquent jusqu en 1810 qu un ordre du duc d York enjoignit de ne plus la former autrement à l avenir ..." (page 315-6)
Georges marquis de Chambray (1840) Oeuvres du marquis de Chambray, Volume 5
"From that time until the peace of Paris in 1814, the only significant innovation in manoeuvres was the formation of infantry in two ranks. The English give the first example of this formation in their regiments during the war in Spain which broke out in 1808, and all their infantry took it in 1810 by order of the Duke of York"
"As soon as the European infantry had been armed with the bayonet, it formed in three ranks Soon after the start of the war in Spain in 1808, the English infantry began to abandon this formation in favour of the two-rank formation. This practice became more and more frequent until 1810 when an order from the Duke of York enjoined [the army] not to train otherwise in the future."
I am not aware of any such instruction from the Duke of York. Albeit I would expect his sanction or endorsement may be necessary if this was to be seen as the standard for all British troops.
Is anyone aware of any such instruction?
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The two rank option existed in a lot of armies for quite a while, Prussian Füsiliere of 1788 - two ranks, French Garde Nationale 1791 - two ranks - when unit strength is falling to a certain proportion French line infantry, two ranks.
The two rank option seems to be a long held option, for special circumstances. Even in the DoY 1794 order it is more about a local battalion reserve. In 1808 Wellington notes all brigades to form on two lines so such a reserve seems unnecessary.
What I saw as unusual was de Chambray's belief this was only ordered about 1810.
If you read the post by '42flanker' a third of the way down this thread, you can see the text of the DoY's July 1794 version of Coburg's order. http://theminiaturespage.com/boards/msg.mv?id=470909
The 1792 regulations rather grudgingly acknowledged use of two ranks by light troops and against timid opposition. (pt.3 p.16), while making clear that 3 ranks were necessary against regular troops.
In his Flanders diary, Captain Roger Morris of the Coldstream Guards, wrote on the 12th April 1794, "the battalions were out this morning marching in line and forming open columns - in consequence of an order from Prince Cobourg, the rear rank of each battalion is to form a reserve - 2 deep - 50 paces in the rear of the battalion to support the right or left flanks as may be most essential." ( Source: With the Guards in Flanders, Peter Harrington, p.95). Coburg was the c-in-c of the allied army including the Duke of York's contingent.
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